Room 23

A gathering place for those who love the ABC TV show Lost. This blog was started by a group of Fans who kept the Season 3 finale talkback at Ain't It going all the way until the première of the 4th season as a way to share images, news, spoilers, artwork, fan fiction and much more. Please come back often and become part of our community.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

EW Doc Jenson: 'Lost': Not in Kansas Anymore

'Lost': Not in Kansas Anymore

What do Dorothy, Toto, and the Statue of Liberty have to do with the final three hours of season 4?

Doc Jensen looks ahead

By Jeff Jensen

Jeff Jensen, an EW senior writer, has been despondent since the cancellation of ''Twin Peaks''


The season finale is upon us! (Was that a tear that just escaped your eye?) ''No Place Like Home'' kicks off a two-part, three-hour event that concludes a fast-paced, hard-rocking season. The big twist you may have heard about — codenamed ''Frozen Donkey Wheel'' by
Lost producers (possibilities: a steam-powered time machine; a metaphor for the celestial clockwork of the universe paralyzed by quantum catastrophe; what a pile of mule dung looks like) — will occur in the two-hour giant-sized wrap-up airing on May 29. Tonight, however, you will see, at long last, the Oceanic 6 return home via Hawaii — our westward ''sea-washed, sunset-gate,'' in the words of a famous poem that links Lost to a certain iconic American statue. (Don't worry: I'll explain this in a minute.) And according to executive producer Damon Lindelof, you will also see this:
''Press conferences, funerals, and surprise parties.... Oh my!''

(See, because ''No Place Like Home'' is a Wizard of Oz reference. Get it?)

Programming note: Even though part 2 of ''No Place At Home'' won't air until two weeks from now, there will be a new Doc Jensen column next week. With the season almost finished, I'm looking for answers to the following question: With the departure of the Oceanic 6 imminent, what happened to the other castaways? Keep your responses brief — 70 words, tops. Here's my guess:

Locke and his fellow Left Behinders escape Keamy and the freighter mercenaries by using the Dharma time machine to quantum leap into the Island's past, where Locke finds himself the leader of the Hostiles. The other castaways? Members of the Dharma Initiative! And guess what? They can't remember who they are! (Now you know why Sawyer was so dazzled by Room 23 last season: déjà vu!)

Send your thoughts to I'll run as many as I can next week.


My wife, the lovely Amy Jensen, doesn't really share in her husband's theory-making hijinks. In fact, a small part of her is rejoicing that the annual obsessive attention-suck that is Lost — the one that has me in a perpetual state of zoned-out, mind-spinning distractedness (sample: Are the fans right? Was there an implied Dalai Lama connection in last week's episode?) — is almost over. But the other day, she made me fall in love with her all over again when she sprang this idea about Smokey on me, and I have to say, I dig it.

Amy's theory is that whenever someone or something — ''stuff'' — is sent from the present into the future or past via the Island's (unseen; still hypothetical) time machine, then ''stuff'' from the past or future is displaced into the present. It could be that this kind of substitution is necessary to prevent paradox. After all, only so much matter or energy exists in the universe at any single moment. So the insertion of space to a particular moment of time would require a reciprocal removal of space/time. Enter the Monster. Smokey serves as displacement — subtracted stuff from past or present that allows for time travel to happen without violating various physical laws.

So why does Smokey act so pissy? Because Smokey is actually a supernatural solution to the time-travel problem. And it is a ''problem,'' because the designer of the universe didn't want people to time travel. So to discourage time travelers from time traveling, Smokey brings the promise of punishment. Remember how Keamy motivated Lapidus to fly him to the Island last week by killing the doctor? The implicit threat was that Keamy would keep killing until Lapidus was properly motivated. This might be how Smokey thinks, too. You're going to time travel? Fine. But it's going to cost you. Don't like the price? Then don't time travel.
My wife's theory. Her first. I'm so proud, I'm having it bronzed.


The war of the world(views): A political interpretation of Lost. Or: Why I'm going to get audited next year.

''No Place Like Home'' — which promises to elaborate upon John Locke's stated ambition to ''move the Island'' — is not the first time Lost has referenced The Wizard of Oz. Ben's origin story episode last year was dubbed ''The Man Behind the Curtain.'' And in season 2, there was ''Henry Gale,'' Dorothy's poor, catastrophe-rocked uncle and the alias Ben used during his Hatch captivity. Given the strong Ben/Oz link, we can presume the former uber-Other will figure prominently in the season finale.

In boning up on Oz arcana in order to properly recognize any allusions that may pop up in tonight's episode, I made the following discovery: According to Wikipedia, ''Uncle Henry'' is an Oz-derived term that economists use when describing the tumult created by a massive disruption to a ''core set of values,'' otherwise called a ''paradigm shift.'' (Presumably, it was inspired by the livelihood-wrecking havoc caused to Henry's farm by that Dorothy-tossing twister.) Wikipedia's choice of words certainly evokes Lost mythology: According to The Lost Experience, the Dharma Initiative was attempting to alter the ''core values'' of an equation that predicted the end of the world. (Those values? The Numbers.) Regardless, the ''Uncle Henry'' concept corresponds nicely to Lost's essential theme: the tumultuous journey of transformation. On a personal, character-based level, that theme is encoded in Lost jargon like ''the Others'' (evoking Hegelian master/slave dialectic) and ''the Hostiles,'' which has a more robust, complex meaning than mere ''anger.'' Psychologist George Kelly defined ''hostility'' as (again in Wikipedia's words) ''the willful refusal to accept evidence that one's perceptions of the world are wrong.'' Kelly's theory of ''constructed personality'' was a hot topic in the late-'60s/early-'70s — the same span of time during which Dharma came to the Island. If Dharma is ultimately exposed as some big psych experiment — if the hermetically sealed, interconnected Dharma stations were actually a
panopticon designed to erase all frames of reference in pursuit of unbiased psychological investigation — it wouldn't surprise me to learn that they were trying to test Kelly's ideas.

But ''moving the Island'' has a lot of big picture political resonance, too, especially in our election year. This brings us back to Oz. Many commentators believe that L. Frank Baum's book was deliberately encoded with references to the early century transition from the silver standard to the gold standard, a turnover that created new fortunes and destroyed old ones. The plethora of philosophers cited by Lost are linked to revolutions of thought (Enlightenment and Marxist) that were met with Kelly-esque ''hostility'' and precipitated paradigm shifts in organization of society. This season's book club selection of authors — H.G. Wells; C.S. Lewis; Lewis Carroll; Philip K. Dick — all sought to create sc-fi/fantasy that captured and commented upon the ''Uncle Henry'' upheaval produced by the ideological forces that formed the 20th century. Among them: industrialization; Darwinism; quantum physics; industrialization; Communism; women's suffrage and civil rights; Existentialism; all things post-modernism.

Similarly, Lost channels our current moment, although in a more fuzzy, abstract fashion than, say, Battlestar Galactica. Set in a world mired in ambiguity and possibly adrift in both time and space, Lost fancifully reflects the perplexing state of flux that currently exists in almost every corner of culture: social, scientific, political, economic, moral, and spiritual. Don't take my word for it: According to last week's Newsweek — the one with the Statue of Liberty on the cover, back turned to the reader — the geopolitical meta-narrative of the 21st century is currently up for grabs. More locally, season 4 has been about election. In fact, recent episodes have made me wonder if the show has become a proverbial Trojan horse, hiding pointed political commentary, or at least a rousing ''remember to vote!'' exhortation. This year's ninth episode was named after H.G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come, a feverish vision of a so-called utopian future run by a religion-purging science cabal based in Basra, Iraq. But there was another Wells reference embedded in the episode's unforgettable scene in which Ben rouses a woozy, nightmare-plagued Charles Widmore from slumber. In 1910, Wells published a book called The Sleeper Awakes, which some consider a prequel to The Time Machine. The novel concerns a 19th-century socialist radical named Graham who falls into a mysterious trance and awakens 203 years later to find that he's so stinkin' rich, he's considered the most powerful man in the world. But while he snoozed, his wealth was leveraged by a corrupt trust known as the White Council to transform the world into an industrialized dystopia of oppressed workers — the opposite of Graham's ideals. The parasitical White Council tries to keep its fat-cat host oblivious to this sad state of affairs by keeping him sequestered. But eventually, there is a revolution, and the White Council is overthrown. Yet the new regime proves to be just as rotten as old. Graham leads a new revolt, assisted by a woman named Helen. The story ends with the hero hopeful that his new rebellion has succeeded, though he meets an uncertain fate himself, as he falls from the sky in a crashing airplane.

[''Shape'' may have included another hidden reference in the moment that preceded the Ben/Widmore confrontation. Remember when Ben told the doorman that he was there to see a ''Mr. and Mrs. Kendrick''? This could be a wink at John Kendrick Bangs, a contemporary to Wells and the originator of a genre known as ''Bangsian Fantasy'': stories set in the afterlife, featuring characters named after famous historical and fictional persons. Sound like a show we watch? Fun Fact! Bangs was a New York political player who was tight with Teddy Roosevelt. He even ran for mayor of Yonkers once, losing by 207 votes.]

What could this mean for Lost? Perhaps a dramatic rethink of Widmore's ideology and ambition, PRESUMING you correlate Awakened Sleeper Graham to Awakened Sleeper Widmore. Last week, I asked: What more could a mega-wealthy man like Widmore want from life that he desperately covets the Island? But the connection to The Sleeper Awakens might mean that Widmore may not be happy with his riches; may have never wanted his riches; and, if you believe that Ben has tampered with time via Dharma quantum leaping magic, he may not have been destined to have riches at all! Like all the men in Lost — even the villains — Widmore may be as much a victim of fate as anyone.

But in light of last week's cryptic business in which Richard Alpert tried to awaken young John Locke to his true self, it makes more sense that John Locke is our resident Graham. What has emerged over the course of the past 13 episodes is the story of two rich and powerful candidates, Ben and Charles Widmore, battling for control over the Island, and perhaps the course of history itself. Their fates rest on the shoulders of a single super-delegate, John Locke. Judging from ''Cabin Fever,'' they have clearly spent considerable resources over the span of his troubled life to influence the kind of man that will one day make the defining choice of their lives. And it appears that day has arrived. Step into the box and pull a lever; it's time to move the Island.
In light of this political subtext, the old speculation that Lost's four toed statue = The Statue of Liberty now seems relevant to me. Inside Lady Liberty you will find a poem written by a woman with a great Lost name: Emma Lazarus. ''Emma'' is close to Emily, a name shared by Ben and Locke's respective mothers; the name means ''universal.'' ''Lazarus'' evokes the dead man raised to life by Jesus in the New Testament. The famous poem linked to the monument is called ''The New Colossus,'' a swipe at another Four Toe possibility, the Colossus of Rhodes. Her poem reminds us that America is a lot like the Island: a home to ''the homeless,'' to ''exiles,'' to ''the tempest-[tossed],'' and to ''huddled masses'' yearning to ''breathe free'' from old, oppressive circumstances. But specifically, the poem speaks of paradigm shift; this statue, this symbol, this country, Lazarus says, signals a change in what has come before. The poem:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,With conquering limbs astride from land to land;Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall standA mighty woman with a torch, whose flameIs the imprisoned lightning, and her nameMother of Exiles. From her beacon-handGlows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes commandThe air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.''Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!'' cries sheWith silent lips. ''Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,I lift my lamp beside the golden door!''

Will Locke lead his fellow exiles in a revolution that will save the Island and renew its magical promise? Or will Keamy follow through on his threat to ''torch the Island'' and bring it to ruin?

''Torch the Island.'' You know, the Statue of Liberty has a torch. And as it happens, ''Emma'' is also the name of the Buddhist god of death. And did you know that ''Keamy'' sounds like the Mayan word ''Kimi,'' which means...death? If the Island = America, then is Lost trying to suggest that, like Lazarus, it's time for our country to be born again?

I'm getting audited for this one, aren't I?

See you at the recap tomorrow, Doc

1 comment:

rbrog77 said...

How's my post about The Colossus of Rhodes back on April 14 looking now, huh?